Happy 50th birthday Hip Hop – from Hitz FM Melbourne

Happy birthday, Hip Hop! August 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the genre and culture – at a party in The Bronx in 1973. Our story picks up two decades later, as many consider the 90s to be a golden age of Hip Hop.

Hitz FM was proud to be part of that era, from the earliest chart breakthroughs to massive artists like Jay-Z and Eminem who appeared at the turn of the millennium. But let’s see how Hip Hop evolved along with Hitz FM Melbourne throughout your favourite decade.

Lets go back to the beginning

When Hitz FM began in December 1992, Grunge, hard-rock and pop ruled the charts. Think Guns n Roses, Metallica, Nirvana, Madonna and Michael Jackson. In ARIA’s top 100 of that year, only novelty rap songs like Baby Got Back and Mistadobalina appeared. But in that first week of broadcasting, Hitz FM Melbourne’s 17th most requested song was Public Enemy’s Hazy Shade of Criminal. It was one track out of twenty, but it was a start. Branching out a bit, we also played plenty of New Jack Swing from artists like R Kelly and Bobby Brown.

When Hitz returned in July 1993, the genre had suddenly multiplied. Listeners were screaming for Hip Hop. The end of broadcast top 30 featured Naughty By Nature (No. 12) and Wrexx ‘n’ Effect (No. 10) among others. But the tearaway hit of the broadcast – the song that got more requests than any other – was the dancehall-infused Hip Hop of Informer by Snow.

Hitz’s famous Summer broadcast of 93/94 may be remembered for its Eurodance and dance-pop hits. But there was a serious amount of Hip Hop between the euro choons. The Top 89 featured Jump Around (House of Pain), Gangsta & Above the Rim (both from Bel Biv Devoe), Ditty (Paperboy) and Tap the Bottle (Young Black Teenagers). But that was just the middle of the chart. Wait till you go to the top.

By the end of the 90 days, an incredible 3 out of the Top 4 songs were Hip Hop. There was the Walk This Way Mastermix (Run DMC/various) – a Hip Hop medley, the massive Boom Shake The Room (DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince) and at number 1, the queens themselves… Salt n Pepa with Shoop.

Happy birthday Hip Hop – let’s get serious!

Over the next few years, Hitz swung away from the genre in favour of house, dance-pop and alt-rock. At this time, late-night (10-12pm) shows were just playing general formatted music, with various hosts. But this was about to change. For Hitz’s 5th broadcast (April 1995) the station began a series of ‘specialist’ shows from 10 till midnight. There was one for techno, Aussie music, requests, and… a “Soul/funk” show that played Funk, R&B and Hip Hop.

The show, hosted by Chris Szymanski continued for the next year, before a new cohost Nina Laxmandas came on board. Soon the show rebranded as “Get Funked!”. In Hitz Melbourne’s broadcast 11 (Winter 1997) they started doing the show live from Chevron nightclub, before moving to Mothership @ Crown in broadcast 14 (Autumn 1998). Finally, the show moved to Mothership @ The Mercury in 1999 and there they stayed for most remaining broadcasts.

Get Funked presenters Chris Szymanski & Nina Laxmandas

We played the greats

In daytime hours, Hitz FM was responsive to the charts and listener requests. In the early 90s we played artists like Cypress Hill, Arrested Development, Coolio, and Ice-T, through to more pop/novelty Hip Hop artists like Icy Blu & Sir Mix-a-Lot. We also played early Australian Hip Hop pioneers like Sound Unlimited Posse.

In the latter half of the decade, Hitz played artists like TLC, 2-Pac, Mark Morrison, The Fugees, Blackstreet, LL Cool J, Notorious BIG, Ginuine, Snoop Dogg, and Warren G. Then there were the remixed hits from Run DMC and The Beastie Boys. And in the final stretch of the station’s existence, stars like Eminem and Jay-Z began to make an impact.

The 90s were a time when CD compilations (like this one) ruled

And encouraged dance crews

Throughout the nine years of Hitz FM Melbourne’s life, we also bought into Hip Hop culture through the promotions department. The station often collaborated with under 18s events and would encourage young dance crews to participate and perform.

Hip Hop was one of many genres that Hitz FM broadcasted during its short but influential life in Melbourne. And it’s incredible to think such a small station was right there at the beginning – reacting to and amplifying such a big cultural shift. As you read above, our most popular requests went from Guns ‘n’ Roses and Metallica to Run DMC and Salt n Pepa in just 12 months! We helped drag Hip hop in the 90s from the edges of the underground to Australian mainstream consciousness.

In the month when we celebrate Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary, it’s been great to stop, look back and celebrate. Here’s to another 50 years of fascinating musical and cultural creations.

Would your friends enjoy this post? Every share helps.

Author: Gabe McGrath

Gabe McGrath is a radio creative and freelance writer. He helped set up 89.9 Hitz FM Melbourne in the 90s. This youth radio station caused a sensation and 30 years later many a 90s kid will smile when 'Hitz' is mentioned. Gabe is working on a book about that era and now blogs about Hitz Melbourne. GabeMcGrath.com includes tonnes of streaming audio recordings, photos, stories and behind-the-scenes info.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *